Suburban D.C. School Board Eliminates All Religious References to School Holidays

By Penny Starr | November 11, 2014 | 6:03pm EST

Muslims attending a meeting of the Montgomery County, Md., School Board meeting on Nov. 11, 2014, raised their hands in support of the campaign to add Muslim holidays to the school calendar. ( Starr)

( – By a vote of 7-1, the Montgomery County (Md.) School Board voted  Tuesday to strip the public school calendar of all references to religion after Muslim groups mounted more than a year-long campaign to get Eid al-adha and Eid ul-Fitr added as a days off for students.

The majority of board members voted to remove all references to religion, resulting in the 2015 school calendar referencing Dec. 24, 25, 28, 29 and 31 as “Winter Break” without noting that school is closed on Dec. 25 for Christmas. Next year, March 25, 28, 29, 30 and 31 will be “Spring Break,” without any reference to Easter.

“It is about equity,” board member Rebecca Smondrowski told after the vote. “I felt that we needed to look at this issue in a more comprehensive way and in a way that works for all members of our community.

“I made the motion because if we are closing for operational reasons then there should be no need to make reference to religion,” Smondrowski said. “That is the most equitable solution that I could see while recognizing that we need to be seriously addressing the criteria for how these things are decided in the future.”

The issue came to a head this calendar year when the Muslim holy day Eid al-Adha and Jewish holiday Yom Kippur both fell on Oct. 4. School Superintendent Joshua Starr suggested that the Jewish holiday not be named but that schools continue to be closed on that date. Schools also are closed from the Jewish holy day of Rosh Hashanah.

Zainab Chaudry, Maryland outreach manager for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) testified to the Montgomery County School Board on Tuesday about why Muslim holidays should be included on the public school calendar on Nov. 11, 2014 in Rockville, Md. ( Starr)

But Zainab Chaudry, Maryland outreach manager for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which launched the Equality 4 Eid Coalition to lobby for Muslim holidays to be included on the school calendar, said they opposed the idea.

“That’s something that we are not in favor of,” Chaudry told before the vote was taken. “It makes absolutely no sense to us that they would want to remove the Jewish holidays from the calendar, and we respect the fact that there are a substantial number of our Jewish friends and neighbors in the community in Montgomery County who also wish to observe their holidays.”

Chaudry said the coalition did not want to remove other religious observances but to add Muslim holy days as days off for students.

In the end, the board voted to remove all mention of religious observances from the public schools calendar.

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